“If God is the ground of being, as I believe God is, then the only way you and I can worship God is by having the courage to be all that we can be — in the infinite variety of our humanity. Whether we are male or female, gay or straight, transgender or bisexual, white or black or yellow or brown, left-handed or right-handed, brilliant or not quite so brilliant.
No matter what the human difference is, you have something to offer in your own being. Nobody else can offer what you have to offer. And, the only way you can worship God is by daring to be all that you can be and not be bound by the fears of yesterday.”
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The retired Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong is one of the featured contributors in several Living the Questions series. He is a columnist and author of over sixteen books including Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Lecturer at Harvard, Humanist of the Year, and a guest on numerous national television broadcasts including The Today Show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, and Larry King Live, Bishop Spong continues to write and lecture around the world. His newest book is The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic.
With Pope Benedict’s recent release of a book reflecting on the Nativity, the historicity of the Virgin Birth is yet again back in the news. It seems that Benedict is more concerned that barnyard animals are inaccurately included in most traditional Nativity scenes than the fact that insistence on a literal virgin birth is one of the reasons many thinking people leave the church.
Retired Episcopal Bishop Jack Spong sees it differently than Pope Benedict — and offers an alternative vision for interpreting the meaning behind the parable of the virgin birth. With apologies to Dr. Seuss: “Maybe Christmas, Jack thought, doesn’t come from a virgin. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a Spirit emergin’…”.
In a reflection reminiscent of Emerson’s appeal to see in every fair flower a “wayside sacrament,” Philip Clayton urges the seeker to not miss the miracle of every moment:
“Do not, in your rush to find ultimate meaning and the ground of all being, neglect the transcendence that lies around you like a miracle at every moment . . . every outlook, every walk in a park is a call to horizontal transcendence.”
— Philip Clayton (from LtQ’s upcoming series on Science, Religion, and Evolutionary Spirituality)
Philip Clayton is the author of numerous books, including, Adventures in the Spirit: God, World, Divine Action (Fortress Press, 2008), In Quest of Freedom (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009), The Predicament of Belief (Oxford 2012, with Steven Knapp), and Religion and Science: The Basics (Routledge 2012). He has served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Faculty, and Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology and is currently the Provost of Claremont Lincoln University.